Press Release

IACHR Publishes Fourth Report on Human Rights Situation in Colombia

August 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today published its report “Truth, Justice, and Reparation: Fourth Report on the Human Rights Situation in Colombia,” a result of its December 2012 onsite visit to the country.

The Commission observes that Colombia is at a historic juncture in which the Government and the FARC could conceivably reach a peace agreement that could put an end to the armed conflict that has lasted for more than five decades. The IACHR acknowledges and encourages the progress of the peace talks, and reiterates its conviction that achieving the goal of a stable and lasting peace should be based on the full observance of human rights. To this effect, it is necessary to clarify human rights violations, prosecute those responsible and punish them as provided for by law, and make reparation for the harm caused to the victims.

This report addresses a number of issues, particularly those concerning the rights to truth, justice, and reparation. The Commission stresses the importance, in this regard, of redoubling efforts to combat impunity.

On this point, the Commission recognizes and appreciates that the approach the State is taking in the peace negotiations centers on, among other principles, a focus based on human rights, the situation and needs of the victims, and the need to prevent a repetition of the violations of the conflict.

In its report, the Commission verifies the serious impact that the protracted internal armed conflict in Colombia continues to have on the human rights situation in the country. The war has involved all types of violence and has taken place in the most remote areas, perpetuating and accentuating contexts of historical discrimination and social exclusion, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable sectors, in particular persons of African descent and persons from raizal and palenquero communities; children and adolescents; indigenous peoples; women; journalists and media workers; lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, and intersex persons; and persons deprived of liberty.

In this context, the report analyzes the situation regarding the rights to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty in cases of forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, as well as the effectiveness of the mechanisms adopted to protect persons at risk. The IACHR also examines the continuity of internal forced displacement, which in the Commission’s view represents one of Colombia’s main human rights challenges today and in coming decades. The report also includes information the Commission has systematized and analyzed concerning the situation of economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as the specific situation of groups especially affected by the internal armed conflict.

The IACHR has established that the principle of non-discrimination is one of the pillars of any democracy and that it is one of the fundamental bases of the human rights protection system instituted by the OAS. Nonetheless, as developed throughout this report, the Commission notes that the Colombian internal armed conflict provokes and contributes to perpetuating specific impacts on certain groups that are in a situation of particular vulnerability and/or affected by multiple levels of discrimination. The Commission analyses in detail the differentiated impact with respect to each one of these groups, taking into account the concept of intersectionality.

For the IACHR, overcoming the violence is inextricably linked to overcoming the situation of impunity and to the ability of victims of human rights violations and their next of kin to obtain justice. This is another of the key and urgent challenges the Commission identifies in its report. In this regard, the Commission presents its considerations on the reforms adopted by the State on transitional justice and reparations mechanisms for victims, mainly the Victims and Land Restitution Law, the reforms related to criminal military justice, and the progress and challenges related to the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law.

An important part of the challenges Colombia faces has to do with ensuring adequate justice, truth, and reparation for the victims of the conflict. In this regard, the IACHR believes the State should strengthen the work of the institutions that play a role in investigation and prosecution, particularly in the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law. The IACHR recognizes that the State is at a historic moment in terms of peace-building in the country, and has observed that the State is developing various legislative measures along those lines. The Commission considers that forging peace is indissolubly linked to investigating, judging, and making reparations for human rights violations, especially those committed by State agents or by those who rely on their support or acquiescence. In this sense, the Commission considers it imperative for the State to adopt a human rights perspective in making decisions related to the transitional justice framework, so as to ensure access to justice for Colombians in accordance with the international obligations assumed by the State.

In the current context of the peace negotiations, and taking into account the complexities stemming from the prolongation of the conflict, the Commission analyses the particular risk situation faced by human rights defenders. The IACHR notes that given the binding nature of protection measures in the inter-American system, recognized by the State of Colombia, and the principle of good faith that governs in international law, once a protection measure is granted by the inter-American system, it is up to the State to implement and follow it. The Commission calls to mind that the implementation of protection measures granted in the context of international proceedings cannot be subject to whether domestic proceedings have begun or have been exhausted.

The IACHR has been monitoring the human rights situation in Colombia for more decades. In December 2012, it conducted an onsite visit to the country in order to collect information, especially on the internal armed conflict and the situation of groups in particular vulnerability, as well as to evaluate the transitional justice mechanisms adopted by the State. The report is the result of the information the Commission received during and after the visit, and it offers the Commission’s analysis and recommendations with regard to the issues on the human rights agenda in Colombia. The report, which was approved by the IACHR on December 31, 2013, by the same group of members that carried out the visit, also reflects the observations made by the State of Colombia to the preliminary version of the report.

The IACHR appreciates the State’s openness and willingness to consent to an onsite visit, and considers that this willingness makes it possible to consolidate substantive contributions to the process Colombia is going through. The Commission thanks the Colombian authorities for the valuable information they provided for the preparation of this report, and appreciates the information provided as well by civil society organizations and representatives of international agencies.

We know that there have subsequently been new judicial decisions and important public policies, as well as progress in the peace dialogue. It is clear that in the process of following up on the conclusions and recommendations we are presenting to the State today, there will be opportunity for the Republic of Colombia and civil society to provide their input and updates so that these can be duly considered by the plenary of the Commission.

The Commission hopes to continue working with the State and with members of civil society in their determination to search for and consolidate lasting peace, as well as to address and overcome the structural situations that affect the full observance of human rights in Colombia.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 93/14